Friday, August 26, 2005

That For Which There Is No Defense

In one of his articles for ESPN, Phil Gordon discusses how strategy varies depending on the type of player against whom you're playing. He reviews different "levels" of thinking about one particular hand and shows how different players consider different options when they play. Phil takes his conceptual discussion from Level 1 thinking to Level 4 thinking. It is really a great article.

But he's forgetting one level of thinking for which there is no defense.

Level 0 thinking.

It's for players who don't even know what cards are in their own hands. Level 1 would be an improvement.

Let's examine a couple of hands showcasing this indefensible technique.

Hand 1. I'm in the BB holding 32h and there are 3 other players along for the ride. The flop is A57 with two hearts. I have a draw to a weak flush and the wheel, but I'm taking an aggressive approach to the hand. With $2 in the pot, I bet out $3 and get one caller. The turn is the 8d. Again, I bet out, this time $7 and yet again get called. At this point, I'm putting the other player on two hearts as well so I really don't want a heart to hit. I'm pretty sure I can buy this pot on the river if the river is harmless, especially with the Ace on the board. The river shows the 8c and I fire out $20. I am flat called again and lose the hand. The other player had 9Th. I was right, two hearts. But the guy called a $20 bet with T-high. In fact, after he called the bet and then looked at his hand, he said, "You win." I replied, "No I don't."

This player, admitted to thinking he had 89 instead of 9T and thought that he had trips. So not only did this player misread his hand, he mis-played the hand he thought he had. How can you compete with that? I know, my fault for trying to play poker against a level 0 thinker.

Hand 2. The game is Omaha H/L. Action has been decent and I know I've got the low sewn up. When the turn card hits the board putting a very easily seen straight draw on board, EP1 bets out at the pot for the first time. Previously, this player had been check-calling. The board is showing two clubs and my 23c that I'm using for the low half of the hand could win high if a club hits the river. A club hits the river. Now, rather than bet out, EP1 checks which confirms my suspicion about his straight. I bet out anticipating a scoop, and EP1 calls. With this being a declare game, I show two chips representing my intention to go high and low. EP1 shows 1 chip for high and when I show him my weak flush, he says, "I only have a straight." Just like I thought. Unfortunately, EP1 showed his cards to the table and about 3 other people told him that he had a flush too, a flush that beat my hand. "Oh. I guess I do." Fantastic! How do you compete with that? I know, my fault for being greedy and trying to scoop with a bad flush.

So yes, there is 1 more level of thinking you have to be prepared for, Level 0. How you adjust your strategy to compensate however, is well beyond me.

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